Yes, this IS my second post in a row about New Year’s resolutions. Why am I doing this?
Because I want to.
People ONLY do what they want to do. New Year’s resolutions are hokey. If you really want to change your behavior, you will—the change in the number on a calendar has nothing to do with it. All day, every day, whatever you are doing, you chose to do—whether you realize it or not. You may not have every option available to you, but you are still choosing how you spend every second that you’re awake.
You may think that you don’t want to go to work, but you still go, because you want to make money. You may think that it’s all about the money, but you don’t try to rob banks or print up counterfeit bills in the basement because you don’t want to risk the consequences. You may not be happy with the few options that you have, but you are choosing the option that you like best—always.
What you want doesn’t always make you happy.
What you want can change and your decisions always have consequences. These changes and consequences sometimes make you feel like you’re doing something that you don’t want to do. But, in reality, you’re constantly doing what you want to do among the choices that you have.
Some people revel in their own despair. They feel like they are some kind of martyr to the misunderstood. They still choose to live that way. I know because I was one of those people.
Consequences greatly influence what we want.
You know those days where you think you want to get all your laundry done, but instead you sit and watch TV? That means that you wanted to watch TV more than you wanted to do your laundry. You may regret your choice the next day when you have to wear dirty underwear to work, but you chose to watch TV instead of doing your laundry. You always choose what you want.
As we get older we realize that we want clean underwear more than we want to watch TV and thus choose to do the laundry. We want to do the laundry because we want clean underwear. The reasons behind what we want can be hard to recognize and can trick us into thinking we’re doing a lot of things we don’t want to do, but in reality, we ONLY do what we want to do, we just have to consider all of the consequences of our decisions before deciding what we want.
If you don’t choose, your body will.
The saddest people around are the people who can’t or won’t decide what they want. When you haven’t decided what you want, your body decides for you. It tells you that you want to sit on the couch. It tells you that you want to eat whatever tastes good. It tells you that you want to escape your life for a few hours by watching TV or a movie, or by playing a video game, or even by getting wasted.
Unfortunately, your body sucks at making decisions because it can’t think past what it wants at that immediate moment. It can’t factor in consequences into what it wants.
Make sure you’re behind the wheel. Even if you’re not sure what you really want, choose something that you might want and work backward through all the decisions that will get you there. That way, even if it’s not what you want when you get there, at least you’ll be making your own decisions.
With great power… yada, yada, yada.
When you finally grow to accept that you’re always doing what you want, you’ll be empowered. While it forces you to take responsibility for how you spend your time, it also allows you to forgive yourself for spending an entire Saturday on the couch, because that must have been what you wanted to do at that moment. Still, if you spend every Saturday on the couch, then you must not have wanted much out of life.
We are always doing what we want from among the choices we have. If you don’t like the choices you have, maybe you want to change your circumstances, but do you want that more than playing GTA today? Do you want it more than getting drunk with your buddies this weekend? Do you want it more than watching The Walking Dead? Do you want it more than you want to “fit in?”
The answer is whatever you want.
Treating yourself like a business will make you happier this year.
There’s a reason that most New Year’s resolutions fail. They are usually pie-in-the-sky ideas that aren’t very rooted in actual change. Ambiguous goals such as “losing weight” or “reading more” are easy to abandon because there is very little accountability.
If you really want to accomplish your goals this year, hold yourself accountable like a boss—literally.
Make a plan, not a resolution.
One of the first things that happens when you start a new job is filling out a bunch of paperwork. While that may seem like a tedious task, it is imperative to the functioning of the business.
Along with the tax declarations and legal disclaimers, there are usually some forms in that stack that are very important to how you will function at your job. Your schedule, your job description, your pay scale, and the description of your benefits are all in there.
The information in these papers form the structure in which you will operate. It tells you when you will be working, what you will be working on, how much you’ll be paid to do it, and how much time you can take off from doing it. Why not apply these same types of parameters to your personal goals?
Write up a document that outlines when you will be working on your goals, include the specific days and hours. Take it a step further and mark down what you intend to do during those hours and how it will impact your overall goal.
It’s a good idea to pencil in the first few hours as research. Once you’ve researched the steps it will take to reach your ultimate goal you can fill in the rest of your schedule accordingly. I’ll elaborate on this in the next section.
Next, outline periodic incentives to keep yourself going.
Finally, allow yourself a limited amount of “paid time off.” This way if you need to skip a day, it won’t feel like cheating. It will all be part of the plan.
Research and Development
As you’re making your own personal job description, you will need to understand the steps it will take to accomplish your goals. This will require some research. How do I know that? Because if you want to do something and already know how to do it, you wouldn’t need to make it a goal. You’d already be doing it.
Research can be daunting, but if you make it part of your plan from the beginning, it will fall in line just like any other goal.
Sometimes accomplishing an overall goal will require a skill that you don’t have. Or, more accurately, it may require a skill that you don’t have—yet. Luckily, skills can be learned and honed through practice.
If your goal is to stop eating so much fast food, but you don’t know how to cook, that doesn’t mean you should abandon your goal. It just means you need to make another smaller goal to learn how to make one meal, then two, and so on. Often you’ll get so focused on the skill development that the original goal becomes very easy.
Research the steps in your goals and break them down into smaller chunks. Develop the skills you need to accomplish each one. Sometimes the skill you develop will have longer-lasting effects than the primary goal.
Now that your plan is in place and you know the skills that it will take for you to accomplish your goals, it’s time to make a budget.
Changes aren’t free. They require an investment of time, money, or both. Plan out what it will take to accomplish your goal.
How much can you spend on a gym membership?
Can you afford new pots and pans right now?
Are you going to buy printed books or save up for a Kindle?
If you’re life changes are going to make you go broke, they won’t last, so budget for them ahead of time. If there is zero room in your budget, then maybe your first goal will need to be increasing your income or reducing your spending. Maybe there’s a cheaper or free way to accomplish your goal—like using the library instead of buying books.
The funding needs to be part of your plan or it will fail.
THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT PIECE OF THE PUZZLE!
Produce results. Whatever you decide to do, make it useful. Yes, your goal is probably about self-improvement. Yes, it can focus on you. But the quickest way to feel good about yourself is to feel like you have value. And the quickest way to feel like you have value is to add value to the world through something you did.
The feeling of value is what will keep you going. It’s what will ultimately drive you when things get hard. It is how you stick with what you started until you finish. The feeling of value is what makes it all “worth it.”
We are all consumers. You cannot live without consuming. But, if all you ever do is consume without producing, in your mind, you’ll know that you are a net negative on the world. If you stop consuming, you’ll die, so the only way to tip that scale in a positive direction is to produce.
Producing can mean a lot of different things. It can even mean taking things away. A massage therapist produces stress-relief. A garbage man produces clean streets. The point is to add value in some way. So, even if your goal is to exercise every day, that goal needs to produce value to the world or it will be very hard to keep it going. This is why having a workout partner is so effective, each partner produces accountability for the other.
If your goal is to read more books, share what you learn from them. Produce new ideas and write them down. Whatever you are doing to improve yourself, use it to create value.
WARNING – It is not your job to jam your self-improvement down everybody’s throat. Trying to make yourself feel good by telling others how much better you are for improving yourself, doesn’t add value. Just do something productive and let the world know it’s available. That’s it. Let the people looking for your particular brand of value find it for themselves. Not everybody sees the world the same way and what you call value, may seem extremely annoying to others.
Use your goal to add value to the world.
Use the world to add value to your goal.
Include quarterly (or even monthly) reviews as part of your schedule. Take the time to hold yourself accountable to what you said you would do.
Give yourself a performance review. Ask yourself difficult questions:
Did you spend all of the time the way you planned in your schedule?
Did you earn any of your incentives?
If so, do you need to increase the goal?
If not, why?
What will you do differently going forward?
Do you need to adjust your goal?
Do you need to adjust your schedule?
Do you need to adjust your budget?
Do you need new skills?
Are you feeling the added value?
Every review is a time to recalibrate and refocus. It’s okay if you’re behind on your goal as long as you know why and make a plan to fix it. If you have changed your mind about a goal, it’s important to understand that reasoning too, so that you don’t make the same mistake twice.
Reviews will add a little pressure, but they will also help you see how much of the outcome is in your own hands. In that way, they give you power.
Take the time to reflect and analyze. Otherwise it’s like going to a shooting range and never looking to see if you’re on target.
In the business world you have to make your goals specific and measurable. You’re in the “you” business. Manage your projects accordingly. Make clear goals that have value. Plan out how you will accomplish them. Keep yourself on track.
Review, don’t resolve.
Thanks for taking the time to visit and read my blog. Please keep reading and I’ll keep writing. Don’t forget to give me a “follow.” You can also find me on twitter @john_dilley. Thanks again. — J. Dilley